When the Los Angeles Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr at midseason, it came at a time of unparalleled receiving talent surrounding Matthew Stafford in the offense. OBJ would not only complement the 2021 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Cooper Kupp, but need to find targets amid a field that included Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee, and Van Jefferson.
Within days of the OBJ signing, Woods tore his ACL. Then the Rams lost Higbee to injury in the NFC Championship game, opening the door for OBJ to help save the day against the San Francisco 49ers. By the Super Bowl, Beckham was no less than Stafford’s “two” and at other times he seemed like the most important player on the offense.
Report: Rams signing Odell Beckham, Jr.https://t.co/JnewYbGhXg— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) November 11, 2021
#Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr is believed to have torn his ACL in last night’s Super Bowl win, source said. That means a long road of recovery for the free agent, who has a challenge to be ready for 2022. Beckham had 2 catches for 52 yards, 1 TD and 1 moonwalk before the injury.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 14, 2022
With uncertainty around the future of Woods, who is set to make a $10 million salary and a $3.5 million roster bonus this year if the Rams don’t release or trade him, and the unpredictability of whether or not 2021 second round pick Tutu Atwell will ever become an offensive mainstay, Los Angeles has to make a major decision in regards to Odell Beckham Jr.
Similarly, OBJ has to make an even bigger decision: Bet on himself on a one-year contract or accept the most money possible when free agency begins on March 14.
Re-sign with the Los Angeles Rams
We could go back and forth for years talking about the many “IFs” that Les Snead could go through to open up cap space. Restructure a bunch of contracts? Sure. “There’s cap space in the future!” Sure.
Here’s the only thing that matters: Last season is last season. It is OVER. Super Bowl LVI was won by the Rams. That’s great. Now the focus is on Super Bowl LVII...and beyond.
The teams in cap hell this year (besides the LA Rams) include the Saints, Packers, Cowboys, Vikings, and Giants. These are all teams that need to figure out how they can become better in 2022 without being able to keep all the players they want to keep; without being able to add all the players they want to add.
The Rams must stay focused on how to retain Matthew Stafford long-term, how to extend players like Greg Gaines, how to keep continuity and talent along the offensive line as every starter stares down the barrel of free agency in the next year or two. Can they do all of that and keep both OBJ and Woods?
Maybe. But fans should prepare themselves for the distinct possibility that L.A. is not going to be able to bring back both wide receivers, coming off of ACL surgery, at 30-years-old, at cap hits of $15.7 million and above. While also paying Cooper Kupp an $18.6 million cap hit in 2022 and $18.4 million in 2023.
Prepare yourselves. At least a little bit. For me?
Without knowing what date OBJ will be able to return from his torn ACL, but knowing that a nine-month recovery window means that he’s not likely to return until November at the earliest, perhaps the Rams will be able to convince Beckham to sign a one-year contract with incentives. (People always forget this but... teams MUST ACCOUNT FOR INCENTIVES ON THE SALARY CAP. It’s not just “free money.”)
Just like in 2021, OBJ could be added to the offense at midseason to complement Kupp and Woods. It’s possible, especially if OBJ is willing to bank on himself as a 31-year-old free agent wide receiver in 2023. However, as I’ve noted many times before, finding quality starting wide receivers over the age of 29 is becoming increasingly rare. It’s perfectly OK if you believe that this is some anomaly that will fade away, but what makes more sense to you:
- The NFL is getting younger and younger because then they can save money by not paying out as many veteran contracts
- This is just some weird coincidence where the top-three wide receivers who were at least 30 years old in 2021 were: A.J. Green (848 yards), Marvin Jones (832), and Adam Thielen (726)? In 2020, it was Marvin Jones (978), Cole Beasley (967), and Adam Theilen (925).
The last player older than 30 to gain at least 1,000 yards in a season was Julian Edelman in 2019.
Will the Los Angeles Rams employ three wide receivers who are 30 or older in 2023? Two in 2022, both coming off of ACL surgery? That’s unclear but maybe OBJ and Woods’ injuries will lower the cost somewhat. The Rams offer OBJ a chance to win another Super Bowl and a quarterback who can get him the ball.
Is that enough for him to stay where he is or is OBJ going to be playing for his fourth career team in 2022?
Go home and play for the New Orleans Saints
The Saints were rumored to be one of OBJ’s targets and vice versa when the Cleveland Browns released him last November. The Baton Rouge native and former LSU star could bring a little more entertainment value to a team that had very little of that without Drew Brees and Michael Thomas in 2021.
Brees, of course, retired. Thomas practically went into semi-retirement and hasn’t been seen since he caught 40 passes for 438 yards and no touchdowns in 2020. Thomas had led the NFL in receptions in the previous two seasons, catching 149 for 1,725 yards in 2019. (Kupp topped both of those stats in 2021.)
The biggest issues keeping OBJ from returning to Louisiana are clear:
- No apparent quarterback
- No apparent money
- Sean Payton is retired
Trading Thomas does nothing to save the Saints money in 2022, but it could free up some in 2023. New Orleans is obviously working towards a goal of creating cap space and if they do, they’ll want to also create value in their signings; selling the fanbase on an eventual addition of OBJ next season could do that.
But does OBJ want to play for new head coach Dennis Allen? Does he want to sign with New Orleans if they don’t have any better options at quarterback than Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston (who is a free agent)?
This signing could be about one thing for OBJ: Giving the Saints a little thrill while hoping to increase his value on the 2023 free agent market. Unless New Orleans first adds a quarterback, then signs OBJ long-term. That seems improbable, but they’ve got something to sell OBJ (home) that no other team does.
Packers keep Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, add OBJ
There were reports in November that Green Bay was the clear frontrunner to sign Beckham when the Browns released him, but then also reports that their offer offended OBJ and that’s what prompted him to eventually land with the Rams. Could the Packers really be crossed off the list though if they keep Rodgers and then get him on the phone with OBJ to convince him to try and win a Super Bowl with a different NFC team?
The Packers, Rams, and Saints all have cap issues but we’ve seen that “issues” only go so far and if a franchise really wants someone, they can make it work.
Green Bay could offer him a chance to pair with Adams (a free agent but not one that the Packers will easily let get away) and to be a part of a different postseason run... potentially soon facing the Rams. The two teams do face off in 2022, potentially in London.
But if OBJ just wants to chase the money, I’d offer the Miami Dolphins (most cap space), Jacksonville Jaguars (team with Trevor Lawrence), New York Jets (back to the Big Apple?), and Indianapolis Colts as possibilities. How much do teams trust OBJ right now?
How much does OBJ trust himself?